Tuesday April 22nd was the 50th anniversary of the New York World’s Fair. The structure that remains from the 1964 event, the New York State Pavilion, was opened to the public for a few hours on Tuesday. I figured I’d check it out, it was right by the gig I’d be working that night. I arrived in leisurely in the afternoon, fashionably late, an hour or so after the event started.
Turns out this was a huge deal. The biggest event that the borough of Queens has seen since last year’s All Star game. Thousands of people were waiting on line for hours, just hoping for a glimpse of what had been closed to the public for years. 27 years to be exact. My entire lifetime. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I was going to miss it! Then I got my golden ticket.
My friend Frank from Life Is But A Theme had been waiting on line for 2 hours. This guy grew up in Shea Stadium, he has more ties to Queens than any one I know. His Dad was even at the event in 1964! Of course he was dying to see the inside of the pavilion, has for 27 years. It was not to be- a stroke of luck for me. Right when I arrived was right when he had to leave the line for work. He gave me his place on line, making me promise to blog about the experience extensively. I felt so grateful and determined take enough pictures so Frank could live vicariously.
I still had quite the wait after Frank left. It was a beautiful day, Corona Park was lovely, I didn’t mind. I learned a bit about the World’s Fair. Its significance in 1964 as a meeting of minds from all over the world. The ultimate showcase of science and technology. Overheard conversations from baby boomers who remembered attending the event. After two hours my number, really Frank’s number, was up! I put on a mandatory hair net and hard hat and walked into the entrance of the former “Tent of Tomorrow”.
Standing inside the pavilion was awesome and eerie all at once. It was like walking back in time, experiencing a shadow of 1964. The high hopes for the “tomorrow” which is my today. Structures that once seemed so futuristic now seem so retro. The rust, decay, and neglect of a pavilion that was not so long ago the pride and joy of New York State.
Signs painted a picture: here stood a stage, over there a food court. The iconic UFO observation towers that once traveled up and down now stand frozen. They gazed down upon us visitors: the people from the “tomorrow” they initially heralded. An expanse of pebbled ground took up most of the space under the steel spider web that once supported the world’s largest suspension roof.
I learned the pebbles were placed to protect what remains of the Texaco floor map. This map was an incredibly detailed mosaic of New York State. Now the map is in ill repair, ravaged by the elements. This map cost one million dollars in 1964. That’s a lot to spend on a floor map in 2014, let alone 1964! All that money and no one thought to protect it in any way when they took the roof tiles down in 1976.
There has been a movement building in momentum recently to restore this pavilion. My friend Tolly wrote an article about this in February. Unfortunately, it’s an incredibly pricey endeavor: $43-$70 million.Considering the number of people who came out for a peek inside the pavilion on Tuesday, coinciding with an announcement of “National Treasure” status from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, maybe restoration isn’t out of the picture. Or perhaps like the flying cars and under water habitation people dreamed of at the World’s Fair, a restored New York State Pavilion is just a dream for tomorrow. I hope not.
One thing is for sure: you won’t have to wait 27 years to get inside again! On May 18th you’ll have another chance to look inside as part of a Corona Park celebration of both the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs. Frank, if you want to go, I’ll wait two hours on line for you. I mean, I kinda owe you that!
Check out these great articles for more information, I got some of my facts from them:
And if you want to see more of my pictures, head on over to New York Cliché on Facebook: album here!